Agriculture Workshop Comment Number: AGW-14510

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Comment Number: AGW-14510

From: Robert & Andrea Ames
Sent: Thursday, December 31, 2009 7:59 PM
To: ATR-Agricultural Workshops
Subject: Comments Regarding Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy


December 31,2009
 
To:     US Department of Agriculture
          Washington, DC
 
From:  Robert Ames
          Aspen, Colorado
 
I am an individual living in rural Colorado who grew up on a small self-sustaining family farm.  I am deeply concerned about the consolidation of corporate power in the agricultural, processing, and supermarket sectors for a number of important reasons only a few of the more important of which I will address here.
 
Prices are rising at the supermarket while corporate agricultural food companies are anticipating record profits this year, but at the same time small farmers are struggling financially.  Locally grown food is fresher, tastes better and is arguably more nutritous yet it is often difficult to find.  It is hard for small food producers and processors to find markets for their products and it’s hard for consumers to find these same products as local products are perversely denied access to supermarket shelves.  Small farmers are going out of business because they can't compete with prices set by industrial farms and consolidated buyers.  In short, small agricultural producers most often produce a superior product but are being denied just compensation and access to markets by the undue influence of corporate market dominance.
 
Under corporate agriculture food is grown and raised in ways that are harmful to the environment and not in the best interests of sound nutrition.  Pervasive and growing use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers pollute the water, poison and deplete the soil and pose threats known and unknown to public health.  Worse, genetically modified plants (and even possibly animals soon) are being grown and consumed without adequate testing to determine potential risks to the either the environment or humans.  All in the name of enhancing corporate profits above all other considerations.  Such practices threaten our long-term food security not to mention the wellbeing of the populace.
 
Under corporate agriculture cows, chickens, and pigs are being raised in squalid conditions on huge industrial feedlots and pumped full of unnecessary antibiotics, which is unhealthy for them and potentially unsafe for the people eating them.  Not to mention that overuse of antibiotics in such ways is rapidly resulting in genetic mutations of pathogens that render the antibiotics ineffective.  Just one example of how large-scale corporate agriculture produces food that can actually be harmful.  Another examole is the outbreak and spread of bacteria like E. coli, which happens much faster and is far more widespread and when meat and vegetables are processed in big centralized locations.
 
Under corporate agriculture access to seeds and diversity of seed types have been dramatically compromised.  Access had been dimished due to the vertical and/or horizontal integration of certain seed companies.  With far fewer seed sellers little reason exists to provide a wide range of seed types per plant species and many reasons exist to increase prices in service of arbitraty corporate profit goals.  Diversity of seed types has also become restricted as traits desirable for certain commercial reasons, such as resistance to damage during shipping, have been placed above factors such as suitibility of specific plants to narrow climatic regions or even reasons so basic as superior flavor.  Worse, a growing percentage of seeds being made available have been genetically modified and potentially pose grave threats to the balance of nature.
 
The profit structure and incentives of large corporations are distinctly misaligned with positive nutritional and health objectives. As food and agricultural corporations have grown and consolidated their lobbies have become ever more powerful, ultimately influencing every aspect of US agricultural policy with results that have everything to do with corporate profitability and little if anything to do with public welfare even though such corporate profitibility is very often subsidized by public tax dollars.  For example, public tax dollars subsidize the production of corn as well as conversion of a significant percentage of that commodity into high fructose corn syrup, a product that is being shown to have adverse health consequences in more and more ways.
 
I urge the department to keep in mind that when a market is consolidated, that is when the largest four or fewer companies control over 40% of the market, they can raise prices and effect other self-serving changes without officially colluding. You can find out how consolidated various U.S. agricultural industries are from the Heffernan Report.  Such influence over any market comes with obviously negative effects to the public.
 
I strongly urge the department to give the strongest possible consideration to making changes that will limit the size and influence of corporate agricultural entities.  At the same time to bring about changes that will strengthen and encourage small local agricultural businesses.  In this regard you are also encouraged to vigorously solicit additional public input while keeping the influence of corporate lobbyists at a minimum.
 
Thank you for the opportunity to share my views.  I will look forward to following your process.
 
Signed,
 
Robert Ames
0253 Conundrum Creek Road
Aspen, Colorado  81611
 
 
 
 
Updated April 7, 2016

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